Book Review – Serpentine by Jonathan Kellerman – Absorbing Narrative
My Rating – 3.5 out of 5
Plot Summary (Storyline) – Serpentine
Admittedly, my first Jonathan Kellerman, and it certainly won’t be my last! This year has been a year of discovery for me, particularly new authors. Some on their debut, some seasoned but I read their work for the first time. And how it has widened my horizon! Though I haven’t stepped out much from the Thriller genre, I’ve discovered so many angles to it, that I am definitely richer for the experience. This one is quite intense and compelling, keeping me hooked till I reached the end and the final twist at the end was refreshingly surprising. The dry, acerbic, and witty banter between Dr. Alex Delaware and Milo Sturgis is very entertaining as well.
Though the cover says an Alex Delaware novel, Milo Sturgis (Detective, LAPD Homicide) is all over it, so much so that I would say that it is 60:40 in favor of Milo. Dr. Alex Delaware is a Psychologist with a private practice and consults with Milo on his difficult cases. They just happen to be best buddies as well. Milo is gay and lives with his partner Rich, while Alex is straight and lives with his partner Robin. Milo is pudgy and extremely fond of food whereas Alex is slim and trim and a little more health-conscious. In this particular case, a 36-year-old homicide, which has remained unsolved for all this time, is forced onto Milo’s shoulder.
Dorothy Swoboda, a single mother, was found shot dead and then burnt as her Cadillac crashed on Mulholland Drive. The case remained unsolved as no clues could be found and the police investigation stalled three times over the years for the lack of any progress. After all these years, Dorothy’s daughter, Ellie Barker – rich from inheritance and also by selling her successful garments business, mentions the unsolved murder at a fundraising event to her neighbor at the table. Another socialite at the do, who overhears the conversation, promises to pull some strings and get answers. Enter the reluctant Milo Sturgis, with no hope of solving such a cold case.
But Milo’s not somebody to do anything halfhearted, so starts digging and looking up the earlier detectives who had worked the case. Some are dead but one is not. Also, he starts digging into Dorothy’s background, and helped along by Alex’s sharp insight, they tumble across several unsolved accidental deaths of people whose paths had crossed with Dorothy’s. Like, the layered peels of an onion, her life seemed to be full of mysterious events and unfortunate incidents. Her coming to LA itself is rather foggy as is her life before that. Along with Dorothy’s murder, Milo starts looking into all the other suspicious deaths surrounding Dorothy’s, and the truth is devastating!
The person Ellie knows as her father was never married to Dorothy – in fact, he met Dorothy along with Ellie but brought Ellie up like his own and never let her feel like an orphan even after Dorothy’s death, when Ellie was only ten. The last detective to have worked Dorothy’s case meets with Alex and Milo and like the others, confirms that he had nothing to go on with and wouldn’t have taken up the case, had his supervisor not saddled him with it, just out of malice. A colorful history of Dorothy emerges but the mystery deepens as to who or why would have wanted to hurt her. Milo and Alex keep chipping away at the mystery…
Conclusion – Book Review of Serpentine
Quite well written, especially the witty exchanges between Milo and Alex. The buildup is exciting and entertaining, and the climax, quite surprising. One wonders, with the help of modern technology, and if materials were preserved, could we solve some real-life cold cases? We will perhaps never know. This is a fun read, and well recommended, and I look forward to reading his 2022 release.
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